Dylan Moore celebrates a goal during the R5 match between Hawthorn and Gold Coast at People First Stadium on April 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

DYLAN Moore's rise to the game's elite has been far from easy. From being a late draft pick to getting delisted after three seasons, Moore has gone from nearly being on the footy scrapheap to All-Australian contention.

The 24-year-old Hawk chats with Cal Twomey for this week's Q&A, going in depth on his motivation, mindset and method to joining the best small forwards in the AFL, Hawthorn's form turnaround and putting away his little black book. 

Seven wins of your past eight games and eight of your past 10. Did you see this form coming?

I saw it turning around, but I don't know if I saw it to this extent to be honest. It was tough going early and we all thought we were better than 0-5. A lot of people in the media were saying 'Nah we thought they would be zero and five' so it hurt us knowing the media was somewhat correct about us. We had a big moment after the Gold Coast game where we had a conversation about standards in the football club and where do we want to be, how do we want to treat each other? We knew we are all good teammates and good friends but after that game we said we needed to be a bit harsher on each other and drive the standards. After that I saw it turning around, I knew we were on the right page but to win seven of the past eight has been pretty nice. 

You were strong on the 'bring your mouthguards to training' sentiment after that Suns loss. You also said you hadn't been living up to the standards required. What were they? 

It was mainly around how tough are we actually going to train? Over pre-season we were putting our head in the hole every session to get better. Over the first five games if you were a little bit sore I'd be like 'I won't do the one-on-one tackling because I'm a bit sore and don't want to get sorer after the weekend'. I was probably protecting myself. But you need to feel the pain in training because that's what you're going to emulate on game day. Those conversations on being tougher and doing more was around training. It was like 'Who cares if you're a little bit sore? Don't feel like on game day you can get away with that stuff'. 

Dylan Moore leaves the field after the R5 match between Hawthorn and Gold Coast at People First Stadium on April 13, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

You've captained the club a couple of times and are co-vice-captain. How much did you put it on yourself as a leader then? 

All of us leaders put it on each other. We all needed to lift. None of us were playing the football we wanted to play. We had some good conversations as leaders saying we needed to step up. If we weren't the ones doing it at training, how could we expect anyone else to do it? 

What was Sam Mitchell like in those moments?

He was really good. I thought he might have been feeling the pinch and the media were going after him a little bit but he kept instilling confidence in us and he's very good like that. You don't ever feel he's feeling the pinch so as players we don't feel as under as much pressure because our head coach isn't. That's something he does really well – he's so calm and balanced that if I think I'm going better than I am he'll bring me back down and if I'm going worse than I think I am then he'll bring me up because he's so balanced. 

You're on track for a career-best goal tally this year and your role continues to evolve. How has it changed this year? 

A few things have changed. Our new forward line has been great, I've really loved it. Bringing in Nick Watson through the draft, 'Ginni' (Jack Ginnivan), Mabior Chol and (Jack) Gunston back, we've just got so much talent in the forward line now which we haven't really had in the past five or six years. That's really helped me. Blake Hardwick has come forward and he's getting a lockdown so I'm roaming a bit more freely and we've got so many different people in the forward line who can kick goals so there's not as much reliance on myself. I'm very much an overthinker and put too much pressure on myself and that's what I've done in the past when I've had that thought like 'We've got a few key outs this week, I need to step up'. But now I look anywhere in the forward line and anyone can kick goals. It's very dynamic and exciting. We were watching vision today and 'The Wizard' is just flying around the forward line and I could never do that but seeing him do it is so special. Seeing Ginni getting it and snapping it around his body, 'Cholly' flying for marks, Connor Macdonald has really come on this year. He could average two goals and 20 for the rest of his career. 


The celebrations have become symbolic of the team's rise. Who's got the best?  

I love it. I'd say Ginni's probably got my favourite and when 'CJ' (Changkuoth Jiath) kicks a goal they do their little bow. I love that. I love how Wizard is already shushing the crowd. Everyone rips into Wizard because he's so small and people say he plays for free kicks and people don't like what he's doing but he's so exciting and we absolutely love it. Any time he celebrates a goal I love it. 

How do you keep the balance between confidence and cockiness? 

We don't really talk about cockiness, it's more to play and say 'I'm going to bring my weapons today'. We don't think we're cocky, we play with confidence and we believe in our own abilities and each other's. Whenever we can do that, confidence allows you to play better. 

You would have seen Nick Watson before he joined the club as the No.5 pick at last year's draft as a past student of Caulfield Grammar as well. What did you think then? 

I remember hearing about him because of Caulfield connections. Everyone was like 'We've got this little Watson kid, he's energetic' and then I saw some highlights clips and everyone started talking about him. A few of us went down to watch Caulfield versus Brighton at the end of 2022 and we were on 'Watto cam' all day. He was electric, I think he kicked four that day. That day I left wondering how good he was at pressure. But the first training session here we were doing a few little handball drills and he was relentless, he just kept going and fronting up and we all looked at each other and thought 'This guy is going to be special'. 

Nick Watson celebrates a goal during the R9 match between Hawthorn and St Kilda at UTAS Stadium on May 11, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

He has started in a very different way than you started your career. You had a great draft season but ended up getting selected back at pick 67. Do you think people focused too much on your size? And you can probably throw draft watchers into that category too…

Yeah, you didn't have me in your Phantom Draft!

Got that one wrong.

Everyone looks for 'How athletic are you and will that translate into the AFL?' I came in at 64 kilos as an undersized midfielder and at that point in time they weren't a part of the League. So you look at the small forwards back then and at Hawthorn we had Paul Puopolo, Cyril Rioli, Luke Breust. You had Eddie Betts at Adelaide. They were all lively, speedy, energetic and I reckon my 20-metre sprint back then wasn't quick. I could see exactly why people would think I wasn't going to be able to make it because my primary role would be as a small forward. Coming to Hawthorn it was so good I was able to find a niche as a high half-forward to get up and use my workrate. I always had that belief I would be able to make it. Going at pick 67 probably drove me more to make it because there were so many people who doubted me. 

You were a gun junior runner. Was that to give you an advantage in your footy? 

I used to do cross country on a Saturday, play footy on a Sunday and do athletics in the summer. I did steeplechase when I was 14 or 15 but then the hurdles grew too much and I had to step over them. I started out as a hurdler over 60 or 80 metres, but then I didn't grow taller and the hurdles did, so I had to become a distance runner. The running started off as something where I just wanted to be fit for football so I did a lot of athletics, firstly because my sister was doing it as well. It wasn't until I got picked up for the Eastern Ranges at the start of my top-age year that Len Villani, who was talent manager at the time, said 'Because of your size, people are going to look at your faults, so I want you to be the best in the draft class at something'. He said, 'You're a really good runner, let's make you even better'. That pre-season I had a running coach and we just smashed it and aimed to become the best distance runner in the draft. I won the 2km time trial at the Draft Combine and that probably got me drafted because people thought 'At least he can run, there's something there'. 

Dylan Moore competes in the 2km time trial during the Draft Combine on October 6, 2017. Picture: AFL Photos

The start of your career didn't go exactly to plan. You've described it as 'embarrassing'. Why did you feel like that?

I was embarrassed. After three years I'd played 10 games and I felt I was so much better than that. What was embarrassing about it was at the end of my first year I won a Box Hill premiership and started kicking goals in the VFL, won best finals player for Box Hill. I thought the next year I would step up in the AFL and I averaged eight touches in the AFL. I thought 'I'm so much better than this, but am I?' That's when self-doubt started to creep in. In my third year in the hub in 2020 I was playing 12 on 12 scratch matches. I played for GWS in the back pocket, I played for Fremantle. I thought 'This is how I'm going to be remembered, finishing my last year playing for Fremantle in the hub'. I tagged Caleb Daniel in my second game that year and he got two Brownlow votes. It was embarrassing. My football dream could be crushed and it would all be for nothing. 

Dylan Moore handballs under pressure from Clayton Oliver during the R7 match between Hawthorn and Melbourne at the MCG on May 4, 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

Famously now you played a great last game in 2020 but by then did you know you were a chance to be delisted? And did the Hawks let you know they would re-draft you for another chance?  

We were in the Barossa Valley and there was a couple of games to go in the season. There was about eight of us who we knew were on the ropes and one by one we all went into the meeting room with (former Hawks football boss) Graham Wright. We didn't know about list sizes then and he said, 'We're going to wait'. They still needed to work out who they wanted and didn't want, who they'd get in the trade period, list sizes, and he pretty much said 'I have no idea mate, you're just going to have to wait a couple of months'. CJ and I were in the same position and we trained as if we were going to be on the list and lets train really hard. In the off-season we got together with Finn Maginness and thought we'd act as if we were still AFL footballers and if we're not, at least we give ourselves the best chance to play VFL or if someone else picked us up. I had no idea until about a week before we came back to training that I'd be back. 

Would you do anything different now for the start of your career?

For sure. I would have focused on my weapons more. It's something that I did in my draft year. I wanted to become a really good athlete with workrate and it got me drafted and as soon as I got to the club I started looking at 'What can't I do?' Like, should I do some work on my left-foot kicking because I'm not very good at that? Should I become a better contested mark because I'm not very good one-on-one? Now, I am a good one-on-one player so it helped me but I didn't focus on being a good inside-50 kick, I didn't focus on getting to more contests with my running. Now I definitely would have come in and just worked on my weapons. 

Since the end of 2020, you've played 80 of a possible 82 games, come third in a best and fairest, signed on to the end of 2026 and are now in the All-Australian conversation. What was the motivation and the method? 

What we touched on before was that embarrassment. I got a second chance and I didn't want to have that same sick feeling of 'Have I wasted three years of my career all for nothing?' I grew up supporting Hawthorn, I was a player who nobody would ever remember. So that motivation was to be better and I had the self confidence that I could be better. The two years after that I got a lot of my motivation from proving people wrong. It's what got me drafted – I got cut in under-15s and under-16s, I didn't get selected in the Eastern Ranges until halfway into my 17s year because people thought I was too small. I used that as motivation to start ticking people off. Who doubted me? Let's prove them wrong. 


So on that, is it true that last year you kept notes and wrote down quotes of what people in the media had said about Hawthorn's form and struggles? 

I did have a little black book. I don't know if should say this, but I had a book and teammates, everyone, would send me stuff saying 'These people are doubting us, they've got us ranked 18th' or 'This person reckons wooden spoon'. I started building the book. Probably 12 months ago I sat down with Sam Mitchell and Jenni Screen, who works with leadership, and they said 'You built your career on proving people wrong and we love that, but when you play a good game people aren't going to be saying 'He's no good' so you need to be able to prove people right'. I got rid of the little black book because that's my past, that's our past, and didn't worry as much about what people and the media say. Because when we're going well, are we going to believe the talk then? So I've had to check myself a bit. 

Have you kept the book?
Yeah, it's still around. 

Which small forwards did you study when you were finding the role that suited you?

I still watch a fair bit of footy and I'm very lucky Luke Breust is here and he's taught me so much. I had Paul Puopolo and he taught me a bit early when I arrived, but around the League I really like Tom Papley. I think he's a gun. What he's able to do around the ground and then when he goes inside the midfield with the energy he brings with his feet is really good and the celebrations he does lift everyone. I still watch Luke Breust a lot. I find him pretty remarkable. I watched a bit of Jamie Cripps as a high half-forward, he gets up and back, I really rate him. Alex Neal-Bullen plays a similar role to me. Kane Lambert probably started the high half-forward and helped Dusty out a bit so I watched a lot of his vision in my second and third years and tried to take a few things from him.

Dylan Moore and Luke Breust warm up ahead of the R12 match between Hawthorn and Collingwood at the MCG on June 5, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

How does the All-Australian talk sit with you? 

This is something I'm trying to improve on. I don't really love the positive feedback. It's nice to hear your name thrown up in All-Australian talk because you always want to be the best and to be alongside names who are the best is quite humbling. I'm starting to try and enjoy the talk but there's still some of me that wants to prove people wrong but it's good to have people talk about you like that. 

The Hawks are a more appealing place for big signings as well. You were part of the pitch to Giants free agent Harry Perryman. How was that? Do you see it as a destination club again? 

It's unfair for me to comment on anyone else who wants to come to Hawthorn or if they don't want to come, but from my own experience I love the club, we've got a really good vibe at the moment. We've been able to have players come in from other clubs and perform nearly at their career-best. Right now, Jack Scrimshaw is doing that, Sam Frost has as well, Massimo D'Ambrosio. That's how I think about culture – how can new players come in and how can they perform now? We enjoy ourselves and have fun on the track but when we need to work, we will and that's the conversation we had at round five like 'It's really fun coming in but we're not performing so how can we best create a balance?' We work so hard on the track and on gameday so we can have better moments in the locker room.